The Westerner

Rookie police officer recalls lake rescue drama

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Source: Lee Oliver

Constable Chris Leonard saved a young boy from drowning in a lake at Warner.

Constable Chris Leonard saved a young boy from drowning in a lake at Warner.

Local knowledge and a “funny feeling” helped a rookie police officer save a young boy from drowning at Warner Lakes.

Constable Chris Leonard was returning home from the final shift of his six-month tenure at Petrie Police Station on 10 February when he spotted a young boy walking on Brisbane Road at Warner.

When the off-duty officer saw several vehicles swerve to avoid the child, he knew something was wrong.

The 26-year-old officer was just a few blocks from his home when he pulled over and tried to talk to the boy, believed to be around eight years old, but he ran away.

“I just had that vibe, that funny feeling that something wasn’t right,” Constable Leonard said. “Given the area and I know where the lake is, it gave me a better idea as to where I believe he might have gone to.”

Concerned for the youngster’s welfare, Constable Leonard followed the boy and witnessed him enter a large lake near Caspian Parade.

By the time the officer, still in his police uniform, jumped into the lake containing noxious blue-green algae, the boy was about 40m from the water’s edge and struggling to stay afloat.

“There was no chance of him getting across (to the far side of the lake) and no chance of him getting back… so I took off my boots and immediately jumped in,” Constable Leonard said.

When the policeman reached the boy and grabbed him around the chest, he began struggling with the officer.

As Constable Leonard attempted to swim him to shore, the boy kept struggling and the officer swam him back towards the edge of the lake using only his legs.

“My main concern was his size, he was not swimming well, he was distressed and was struggling,” he said. 

“He seemed frightened... and I had to deal with the reeds and weeds in the lake.

“When I was trying to manage him and bring him back to the shore with him struggling, the reeds made it extremely difficult for me to swim.

“That became an issue and got my heart pumping a bit more but I managed to find a method (of swimming) that worked.

“At the (police) Academy we trained to do a full clothed swim and I believe that did assist in my understanding of how to cope given that situation.”

The boy’s father helped Constable Leonard reach the edge of the lake and pulled him and the boy to safety. 

The boy was then taken to hospital for precautionary checks.

Brisbane North Police District Inspector John Hallam praised his rookie colleague, who is just six months into his policing career.

“It showed that his quick thinking and his initiative, built on the skills he already had before her entered the academy, and with his training, he knew that he had to do something quickly or the child may have been in danger,” Inspector Hallam said.

“What he did has made us proud and it is what policing is all about.”

Constable Leonard rejected suggestions he was a hero.

“I was just doing my job and followed my gut instinct,” he said.

“In situations where you see a child in distress you just hope that the decisions that you make and the actions that you’ve taken give you and the child the best result.”

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